Updated 6 Nov 2005
WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900
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Memories of Middleton
Edith Taylor (1916-2002) was born and lived in the same house in the village of Middleton by Wirksworth for eighty six years. She tells of the changes that took place during that time and the effect on village life.
The Basin on The Green before the Mount Zion Chapel was built in 1906.
When I was young I would walk over the hill to see what was on the other side. From the top of Barrel Edge you can see a famous structure called "Crich Stand" standing on the top of a quarry. In 1923 it was rebuilt in memory of the men of the Sherwood Foresters Regiment who gave their lives in the Great War. In those days it had a bright light which shone out like a lighthouse over the area where the men of the regiment had lived. There is still a light but the bright light was dimmed many years ago, fading like the memories of that terrible war.
My name was Edith Slack and I was born during the first world war in 1916 and I still live in the same house nearly eighty years later. There have been many changes, some for the better but not all.
I and my generation have lived in a time of great changes for ordinary people, perhaps greater than any previous generation. In my lifetime we have gone from using candles to electricity via paraffin and gas. From dolly tubs and pegs and mangles with wooden rollers to machines that deliver washing ready for ironing. At the same time we have gone from a wireless with earphones, to modern transistor radio and later black and white television to colour with video so we can record what we cannot see at the time. The telephone was a rarity when I was young but now we can speak with friends all over the world.
I was around four years old when my sister Alice, brother Daniel and cousins from next door took me up to the Wesleyan Chapel for the 10.45a.m. Sunday School. There I learnt the hymns which are still sung today. I didn't go to Chapel in the afternoon or evenings at first but believe me, in olden times Sunday was a very special day set aside for worship. We were not allowed out to play and my mother would not sew on a button or knit. All the jobs, if possible, had to be completed before the day of rest even the vegetables for the Sunday were prepared on Saturday night.
When I was older I went to Sunday School morning and afternoon then into the chapel for the services and we had to behave with the adult congregation or else we would be in trouble when we got home.
There were, and still are, three chapels and a church in our village, and years ago our lives centred around the concerts, parties and festivals that happened during the year. We went to everyone else's efforts and would close for the evening service to unite with the other places of worship. All had large congregations and many scholars and I have seen each place of worship full and chairs put down the aisles. On anniversary days the choir, masters, parents and children went around the village singing our special songs and hymns in the mornings and sat on the stage afternoon and evening. On the Monday following the anniversary at the Wesleyans we had games in the afternoon in my Uncle John's field up Chapel Lane, then went back to Sunday School for a tea party (we called it a Treat) with lots of lovely sandwiches and jellies. The children from the other chapels had theirs during the summer. There were also school concerts etc.
We had then the Middleton Victoria Silver Prize Band, around thirty men and youths were in it and Joe Sam Spencer, who lived two doors below me, used to train the new starters how to play a cornet or other instrument. He was the conductor of the band and of our chapel. At the last Sunday School Anniversary he conducted he said it was the best singing he had heard for some time. On Monday, at work in Matlock, he was killed. What a shock for his family and Middleton.
The Congregational Chapel was built in 1785 by Captain Scott who was the minister of the Lady Glenorchy Chapel, Matlock Bath and was the first and only place of worship in Middleton for many years, later the Sunday School was added. The pulpit was acquired from the chapel of a famous preacher, Dr Doddridge, at Northampton.
The Wesleyan Chapel was a small building in 1820 I have been told, some of the Walker family gave the ground and it was rebuilt in the year 1874 with a gallery and entrance on to Main Street the Sunday School with doors opening on to Chapel Lane is under the Chapel.
Holy Trinity Church was built in the mid 1800's. Bagshaw's Directory of 1846 says of it, "A small neat chapel of ease, with a turret, one bell, and a clock, calculated to seat about 400 persons, was erected in 1844, at a cost of £1,200, raised by subscription, aided by a grant from the Incorporated Church Building Society". The stone was from a quarry near Black Rocks and when the vestry and porch were added in the early 1920's the quarry was reopened.
The church clock struck each hour and could be heard all over the village, especially at night. If anyone was ill or couldn't sleep they could count the strokes and know the time, it was also company. Then birds and pigeons got in and made such a mess. It doesn't strike any more but John Doxey of Rise End still comes and winds it up and keeps the clock going so we can still look up and know the right time.
The bell was always tolled for a funeral, wedding and death, one strike for a man, two for a woman and three for a child. We always found out who it was and helped out if we could, that has all gone now.
On one day a year the church gates were locked at the top and bottom of the churchyard, this was to show that although it was a public right of way it still belonged to the Church Council. The Vicarage is the largest house in the village and in a lovely setting, I can remember vicars coming and staying for years before they moved on. They had servants living in and in summer would hold garden parties on the lovely lawns. The Gells of Hopton Hall gave the site for the School and at first it had restrictions and the chapel children couldn't attend. I've heard my mother say that she and her brother Billie had to walk to Wirksworth to school because they couldn't attend Middleton school.
In 1927 Rev. Cottle and helpers built a village hall and there were many chapel men and boys helping. The chapel ladies also raised funds but when it was finished it was called the Church Hall. That caused a feud which has been going on until the last year or two. Now it has been passed on to the village and is being modernised and is called the Village Hall.
The Primitive Methodists had a chapel on the site now occupied by Chapel Croft, the new chapel was built in 1906 and I have an old photo
with a thatched cottage where the chapel now stands, later photographs show both chapels.
In early days all these places of worship were filled but not today.
by Edith Taylor
When I was old enough I went to the village school, there were many more pupils in those days because we stayed there until we left at 14 years of age. The classes were much bigger with five or six teachers for 160 or so children. Mr Bames was the Headmaster and the infant teacher was Miss Buckley; she was very kind but like all the teachers in those days she was also very strict. I was left handed but I was made to write with my right hand, my left hand was tied behind me. Now I am able to write with both hands because I used to change over when I could.
Later I moved to a higher class with Mrs Woodiwiss, she taught the girls how to sew and knit. With being left handed I used to start from left to right instead of right to left. At the same time boys would either have gardening, football or cricket depending on the time of year. We girls also walked to Wirksworth and back each week to the cookery class at the old Grammar School near the Church yard. We took a variety of ingredients to put together and cook, sometimes eating what we had made on the walk back to Middleton.
We all had an exciting time on May Day, some danced round the Maypole and some did country dancing. I can remember when Kath Bunting was May Queen one year. All our school days were centred round either the school or place of worship we went to, so different today but they were happy days.
I was also in the school choir and we sometimes stayed behind after lessons to practise. One song was written by a teacher and John Dickinson and I can still remember the words and music, I have written it down while we still can recall it.
Our strong bond shall ne'er be broken it shall never die It's far surpassing wealth unspoken Sealed by friendship tie. Chorus...
I left school at 14 years of age. The choices for girls then were the mills at Masson, Lea, Bonsall and Wirksworth, in a shop or in service. The boys usually went to work at one of the quarries or farms or for a local tradesman or to one of the mills. Another employer was Millclose Mine at Darley Dale which meant getting up early and walking across Bonsall Moor. We all walked to work in those days.
My mother had been with me down to Masson Mill before I left school and I had got a job. I left school on the Friday and started work on Monday. We started at 6 or 7.30a.m. finishing at 5 or 5.30p.m. My wages were 13/4d (67p) a week. There was plenty of work in those days but compared with today we were poorly paid.
The quarry men were very often laid off during the bad weather in winter and had to report every day to the Labour Exchange to sign on the dole. Employers could apply to the Labour Exchange for help with seasonal or extra work and if there had been a heavy snow the men would be sent snow shifting on the road or railway. Not many of us had the opportunity to go to college.
When my friends and I were in our teens our mothers would let us walk to Wirksworth and stroll round the town, we would talk to girls and boys who were also round Wirksworth; one of the popular walks was round the church yard. It was there I met George Taylor, he lived at the bottom of Greenhill; there was a large family of them. For a time we just stopped and chatted with several other youths and girls, one night he said "I'll take you to Middleton".
At Rise End there was a wooden shop where John Thomas Hallows sold sweets, pop, ice cream etc. we called him Johnty. There was also a small shop opposite the school which also sold sweets, crisps, chocolate etc. George would walk me to one of these shops because I didn't want a bother with my mother, but after a while some friend told her and she stopped me going to Wirksworth (maybe we met underhanded). I was working at Masson Mill and George was working at the quarry down the road so we got messages to each other, anyway we got together again and went to the pictures in the Town Hall at Wirksworth. Fred Millward worked the projector and his girlfriend Maud saw to the tickets, I can't remember who the other people in charge were but there were dozens of children, laughing, cheering and shouting because we had never seen films only lantern slides.
I remember one day we were walking down the road and met the Taylors, around ten of them, he introduced me and after that I started visiting the relations, George also came to our house so it was all out in the open. We used to go to Derby by train - one shilling in old money return - walk round then go to the pictures (more modern).
George would walk me to our house then have to walk back to Greenhill. There wasn't much money and we had to share the expenses because he had to pay his board and I did too.
We got engaged when I was twenty-one, he had already bought me a watch, we had to keep saving odd pounds as neither of us got a big wage.
George by this time drove a crane in the quarry helping to drag the huge blocks of stone off the rock face and had to work in the rain or his wage was down. I was still at Masson Mill but by this time Sam Slack ran a bus, it was a good day when we could ride both ways. The Watts brothers had been running buses several years before and we had been riding from Masson Mill up to Steeple House Arch then walking on Porter Lane. The Watts' buses were named Adam Bede, Seth Bede and Dinah Morris after the famous family who had lived down Derby Road many years before.
George asked me if we could get married in 1939 so it was decided for 9th September but there was much unrest in the country, war was looming. On the Sunday morning, 3rd September, the prime minister of that time, Mr Chamberlain, said England was at war with Germany. Our wedding took place as arranged and we had tea in the Church Hall, very good ham and tongue and salad, but we didn't go to Blackpool on honeymoon, we thought we should get blown up, but the following year and every year after we always went to Blackpool in George's holiday. We went by train as by this time his brother had got him work on the Railway at Derby. He used to walk to Cromford station every morning but got a lift back at night.
At the beginning of the war the woods opposite where I live between the back of Black Rocks and the Sheep Pasture down to the A6 between Cromford and Whatstandwell was covered with fir trees. As the war went on there was a shortage of timber and all the woods were felled and replanted including the one behind Bolehill. A family of woodcutters from Scotland and some local men including John and Ted Ward were employed to cut it down. I got a job helping with this work together with Ted's wife Clara and Ruby my two sisters in law. We had to strip the bark off the timber before it was cut into lengths for pit props and taken
down to Cromford station. We worked in brace and bib overalls and boots and walked to and from the wood. I got blisters on my hands and tired from the heavy work but I really enjoyed being out in the fresh air with the smell of the pines and flowers. After the wood was felled it was replanted and those are the trees that are there today.
The war went on and food was very short, we had ration books and gas masks. Expectant mothers came from London and round that way to have their babies at Willesley Castle, which had been turned into a Maternity Hospital. Some of the mothers-to-be were sent to homes in Middleton to live until their time was due. Soldiers were billeted at the Pavilion, Matlock Bath and all large places were taken over by the government, our lives were upset but no bombs were dropped here the nearest was Derby because the planes came to find the Rolls-Royce factories. Lots of the large cities such as London, Coventry, Liverpool and Birmingham were shattered.
In 1945 I went to Wirksworth Maternity Hospital and had a son, we called him George after his father, it was the 4th day of April, 1945 and we were still having to be very careful not to waste food, but a pound was worth 20 shillings then.
George said "Shall we move into a larger house." but I said I was born here and couldn't we manage because of the beautiful view across the fields and hills. I guess in those days a new house could be built for around £500, but I'm very grateful we stayed.
Every Friday all through our married life, George put my housekeeping money on the top shelf of the cupboard and I paid cash for everything we bought. Today I write a cheque to pay the bills but it's hard to get used to after dealing with money for so many years.
When television became available we decided to buy a set, this was in the days of black and white. Our George was at Middleton school and used to bring pals home to look at the children's programme, they still talk about it to this day, we have always had children at our house and still do.
I got a job at the school helping to serve the dinners which I held for more than 18 years. Mr George Ludlam was the headmaster, he was a kind man, very strict but did get discipline. I still wave to the school children as they go down with their mothers, it was the mothers who were at school when I worked there years ago.
Wells and spring-fed troughs supplied Middleton with water years ago. The trough on the Green known as the Basin was reputed to have been installed in 1768 and the trough on Water Lane was put in place in 1865 on two square yards of land bought by the Overseers of the Poor, the water being piped from Water Lane Spring.
When I was young water was always in short supply, nobody had water piped into their house. We used the stand taps and pumps at several places in the village. They have gone now but some of the stone surrounds can still be seen.
There was a pump at Rise End just along the old road to Wirksworth and the first tap was at Rise End in the garden wall of "Kneedene". The next was at the bottom of The Hillside facing down the road by the side of what remains of a well. At the top of the Hillside there was a tap in the garden wall of No. 5 but nothing of this has survived. Lower down at the junction with The Alley there was a tap in the wall facing up The Hillside but recent repairs has covered what was left.
The houses which were demolished as the quarry was extended were supplied by a pump and the source of the water was probably the spring which runs into the top side of the old quarry face.
We had a tap in our front yard, No. 11, which I think was put there by Uncle Jim who lived next door. The people who lived further up the road used the tap at the bottom of The Alley, the stand can still be seen. Higher up there was one in the wall of No. 38 and one in the wall opposite the Post Office now replaced by the drive of "Cwm Rhondda". The Green was served by the Basin and Water Lane by the trough which was fed from a spring, New Road had a tap next to No. 5
The Lanes (now Duke Street) was served by a tap in the wall which has been knocked down to provide a drive-in to No. 12. The Fields had a tap in the garden wall of Mr Killer's house, the wall has now been demolished to provide a parking space.
In summer we were always short of water and it was only available at certain times of the day, Mr Joe Harrison (who was lame) turned the water on at the Green and it ran down to Rise End and our families got water but were only allowed two buckets of clean water for drinking and cooking. For other purposes we had to save rain water, we had a tub in the back yard. Some people had a well in the garden or yard and a few
inside the house, they were considered to be well off. The trough in Water Lane was filled from a spring on the moor conveyed via a pipe and was a reliable supply, people would leave their buckets there to fill up. The pump on the Hillside, which had a handle which had to be worked up and down to get the water, never ran dry. Some years later Harry Flint got a pump installed near Tuffa Cottage in Via Gellia and many gallons of water were pumped up to the reservoir on the moor each day, I can't say when that finished.
When I was young Friday night was bath night (not every day) for remember we had very little water. The tin bath which hung on the wall outside was brought before the fire. Hot water was put into it out of the side boiler of the fire grate. I think we had turns who was first to get in, it kept being warmed up until we were all clean for the weekend then the same water was used to clean the sandstone floor or the front steps. Now gallons of water goes down the drain and never has a second job to do as years ago.
It was a great pity when the basin was broken up and the tablet over it too because these were part of our heritage. The council took some houses down to widen the road and destroyed the basin at the same
time. These days it would have been re-sited on the Green and preserved.
The Basin on the Green with the old chapel on the right
Years ago almost everything was moved by rail, coal came into Middleton and stone went out. The High Peak Railway was working and after school we would run down to Hopton Wood Quarry (Croxton & Garry now) and watch the steam engine bringing empty wagons into the quarry and taking out the ones loaded with limestone blocks. They were taken to the top of the Sheep Pasture incline and went down on an endless rope to the main line at Cromford from where they went to all parts of the country.
Most of the stone from the quarry was used for building and masonry, and several hundred have men worked there. Large blocks of stone were removed from the quarry face by putting wedges behind them and driving the wedges in with hammers until the block broke away, it was very hard work, no explosives were used as this would shatter and crack the stone. The stone was then taken across to the saw shed where it would be sawn into blocks to be transported all over the country. It was also used for interior decoration in many famous buildings including the Bank of England and the Houses of Parliament. Two lion statues, originally outside the City Hall, Sheffield, can be seen outside the Tarmac Offices in Matlock.
After the war was over in 1918 the works produced thousands of gravestones for the war cemeteries in France and Belgium. To help with this work stonemasons were brought in from other parts of the country including a contingent from Preston. The part of the works where they were employed was known as the "Preston End" for many years after. On Shrove Tuesday in 1928 The Prince of Wales visited the works and watched a gravestone being carved before going on to Ashbourne to start the football match.
The stone cutting saws were driven by engines fuelled with gas that was produced in the gas works next to the sawmill. We used to watch the stoker rake the coal out, stoke the pipe up with fresh, put lime paste over the doors to seal them then put water on the coal he had raked out and turn it into coke. The works also provided Middleton with gas and I can remember Mr Horace Killer coming to empty the pennies out of the gas meter and if we had used a lot of gas there would be a rebate.
Before we had gas in our house I remember going to bed with a candle in a candle stick, later we had a paraffin lamp. When we had the gas light
this was big improvement but if you ran across the bedroom floor the mantle would break, they were so frail. In 1928 electricity arrived in the village and Cecil and Geoff Grace and Brian Cole came from Manchester to wire the houses. They lodged at Mrs Fox's at the bottom of Sandy Hill. Two of these electricians met and married local girls, Geoff Grace married one of the Walker sisters and Brian Cole to Jessie Fearn, they later kept the Post Office. The Millward brothers who later had the garage in Wirksworth also wired some of the houses. The power supply was via overhead cables which went from house to house and was taken through the wall into a meter in the bedroom. Some of the cottages are still supplied this way.
There weren't any motor cars in Middleton when we were small only horses and carts, the snow plough was kept up New Road and two horses pulled it downhill first then back up the partly cleared road. It never went on Porter Lane, that was full up for weeks. I don't know who that road belonged to then because Middleton was part of Ashbourne Rural District and it wasn't until 1934 that we were made part of Wirksworth Urban District. Years later my husband, George, said "We had to be taken over by Wirksworth to be civilised".
Gells of Hopton Hall made the road from Via Gellia (Rider Point) up to the Green at Middleton and called it New Road. The Gell gentleman and friends used to come round Via Gellia on horse back and up New Road, let their horses drink at the basin then go on their way to Wirksworth Market. They also came back that way and let their horses drink (remember there wasn't any motor cars).
At the side of Tuffa Cottage in Via Gellia there was a spring and water ran down the bankside, lovely pure clean water that was drinkable. Nearby was a brook that we children paddled in when on holiday from school, we took sandwiches and could stay there all day and be safe. We would go down the middle of the wood below Mountain Cottage to where, in August and September, blackberries grew. We took baskets and gathered them and our mothers made jam, pickle, vinegar to eat and drink during the winter. Our mothers only had to buy the sugar because there wasn't much money around.
There were also wood nut trees. We gathered those to eat and towards Whitsuntide we used to gather beautiful lilies of the valley from under the trees at the bottom near Rider Point, bunch them up and sell them for 6d a bunch to strangers and go to gather more. I can't say if they still grow because over the years things have been let go wild and because the children today don't, well can't, go and play the same, it's too dangerous with the traffic and strangers about.
We hadn't much money but were happy, very happy, my friend Evelyn Jepson and I used to share a 2d. bag of crisps between us and eat a crust. I have made my tea of bread, butter with sugar sprinkled on hundreds of times.
My aunt and uncle, Esther and Jim Beeson, and cousins lived next door, my uncle worked for Marsdens as a tinsmith and mended kettles and pans in his spare time for 2d. He also grew plants in the allotments across the road and I would take them out to friends for 6d in old money, also tomatoes. All the allotments were used then to grow our own vegetables and flowers. People don't "Dig for Victory" now, it all comes from the grocers. and supermarkets.
Twice a week my friend Evelyn and I used to take a clothes basket full of dough to Wigley's bakehouse, now 45 Main Street. Our mothers and aunts used to knead flour, salt and barm, with milk and water then put it to rise near the fire then they would put it into the tins with their names underneath so they would know whose it was when it came out of the oven. After school we would collect the newly baked bread. Tom Wigley and his wife also had a little shop at the side and sold Wembley buns, ice buns, scones and tea cakes, that is how he started; later he had a van and took all kinds of bread and cakes around other villages. everyone was friendly then, they helped each other financially, did jobs for each other and minded each others children.
Mr Sam Hallows used to have cows down Eastas Lane and would go each morning to the barn half way down to fetch the cows in and milk them by hand, it took a long time, then he delivered it as he came back. He had a wooden yoke on his shoulders with two chains and two buckets, he also carried a pint and a half pint measures and a sieve. He would measure the fresh warm milk straight into our jug.
There were lots of smallholdings in the village then and a lot of people kept fowls and some pigs. When a cow calved the beastings were a special free treat, we had pies made of these lovely extras which were welcome.
Several people had cows and sold the milk, we had never heard of dairies or milk bottles. Some people had milk left over and used to shake it in a sealed tin until it was solid, that was butter to spread on the bread which was homemade. Mothers also made lovely barm bread and cakes.
Hopton Wood Stone Firm also had a coal sidings and took coal by horse and cart to people's houses. They would drop it in front of the
house and friends would help to stack it in the coal-house, our coal had to be carried through the house.
Across from the Rising Sun public house was a road that one could walk and get to the top of Greenhill and The Dale at Wirksworth. Loads of coal were taken by horse and cart that way because the horses couldn't pull the loaded carts up the steep hill from Wirksworth. While I am writing about Greenhill, I would like to mention that in those days when Rolls-Royce had made new engines they used to test them on Greenhill then come through to Middleton and go down the valley. There was a bridge on that road too, which carried the road over the narrow opening to the quarry at the back (see the photograph on page 8). The entrance to the quarry was on Wirksworth Road and the bridge was famous and was part of our heritage but it was blown down when the quarry was extended and the road closed. We had always known it as the 'Monkey Hole' with a story behind it.
In days gone by a travelling Italian organ grinder used to come and would entertain the men working in the quarry by dangling a rope from the top on which the monkey would perform tricks and collect money. When the rope broke one day it brought the performance and the Monkey to an abrupt end, but the name has stuck since.
Middleton Band was well known years ago and used to play at the Baseball Ground when Derby County Football Club played at home, several friends used to walk round the ground at half time with a white sheet collecting money for band funds.
There was a town crier at Wirksworth named Luther Gould who also came round Middleton to tell of events taking place such as furniture sales and concerts, he had a very loud voice and a big bell.
Cricket and football have been played on the recreation ground all through my lifetime. In summer the field had to be mown with a scythe on Friday evening or Saturday morning before a match. In winter the well drained field had a reputation locally as being one of best to play on. The "Rec. " was a gift to the village and until the recent boundary changes was in Cromford Parish.
At the Institute - now No.14 Main St. - billiards were played and a team played in a local league and won many cups and trophies, the men were very, very keen. The Institute was also a branch of Lloyds Bank and the doctors' surgery. Later the Institute moved to new premises, now Duke Street Garage but the arrival of television proved to be a bigger attraction and it was closed. TV had an affect on other activities
in the village and for a time people lost interest in local concerts and plays and visiting neighbours.
I remember when traders came round the villages with horse and dray to sell fish, meat, bread, cakes, sticks, logs, coal, fruit and veg, paraffin, clothes, bedding etc. but we also had shops, the Co-op, Gregson's (later Flint's), Post Office, drapers, bank, newsagent, two more grocers shops, Jos Slack and Clayton's, chip shop, barbers, several dressmakers, smithy I could go on, we were always self-supporting, then of course the motor vans arrived and cars and more speed, not many ride bicycles today as they did years ago.
In our young days there were no houses where Queen Street, King Street, Stile Croft and Churchill Avenue are today. I have an old photo which shows Stile Croft with a footpath going through it and two or three fields in front of the Duke of Wellington. Where Churchill Avenue now is Jim Clayton had fowls and turkeys, very big wooden sheds stood there. There were also several stiles and a path straight on to several barns. We went down Gypsy Lane to them, if you kept on then turned right it would lead you down Big Hill where we went every morning to Masson Mill, it came out half way down Cromford Hill. Straight on the road would lead you to the top of Bonsall Wood and the Mill in Via Gellia across from the Pig of Lead.
On the Hillside there were 23 houses which were demolished when the quarry expanded (they couldn't stop production). These were some of the best houses in Middleton at that time. After the houses had been taken down the managers decided to work underground which they still do today. The underground roads and channels being worked go under the moor and also to Hopton where there is now an entrance. Hopton had two quarries when I was young.
It used to be a winding main street and traffic had to be careful and go slowly but several houses were taken down to straighten the road so that now cars and vans go through much faster and the cars parked on the road make it difficult to get across.
I can remember when there were no tractors, mowing machines or muckspreaders. the farmers, with help, loaded their drays and carts with cow manure and took it up and down the fields where grass was grown for mowing and left it in heaps and after would spread it with a fork and then come with a chain harrow drawn by a horse or maybe two. This was done in early spring and then it was left to grow until July or August when it was mown with a scythe. It was hard work mowing a large field
by hand and it was mown right up to the walls, that was called belting round (they don't bother with that today). Then they hoped for some dry weather and sun but the grass had to be turned over several times by hand to dry it completely, it was then raked into rows and heaps and loaded on to drays to be taken and either stored in a barn or made into stacks which were thatched like a house to keep the weather out.
The hay would settle down into a solid mass so that in winter the hay required for the day had to be cut out with a hay knife. This had a blade about three feet long and was worked like a saw to cut out a slice of hay - warm work on a cold winter morning.
Years ago there were no local planning authorities and people used to build what and where they liked. An example of this was the house next to where I live. I was told this story by Isaac Spencer (father of Isaac).
There used to be a bedroom window in my house which looked down the street and next to the house was a barn. The man who owned this barn wanted to convert it into a cottage so he built up three sides as far as he could but the family who lived in my house at that time kept the outward opening bedroom window open all the time so that he couldn't build up the fourth side. One winter night there was a blizzard and they closed the window. Next morning they awoke to find that during the night the wall had been built up past the window. The window has been bricked up but still shows through the wallpaper.
The stone wall opposite where I live has been there all my life, years ago it was bigger but as the road and footpath has been repaired over the years they have been made higher, coping-stones sometimes get knocked off but some kind friend will lift them back for us.
Middleton was a lead mining village, the last mine to be worked was the Good Luck Mine in Via Gellia. There are mine shafts in almost every field and even in the gardens of some of the later houses in the village. When we were young the shafts were capped with a cone of stones, this was made by building a wall round the shaft with each layer of stone set in towards the centre until after about twenty layers they met in the middle forming a cone, no cement was used but the structure was strong enough to keep out animals and people. We never went near them but today they have fallen into disrepair and not many can be seen.
When the youth club was held in our schoolroom we tried to keep order but some didn't like me, they thought I was too strict but they still chat with me as I go about the village.
There was Jack Brooks, he was the one that when a load of coal was tipped outside the house, he would come and get it in using buckets and would stack it up neatly, leaving the small stuff to be used first, it was called ashless coal they didn't make bats then like today.
There was Arthur Wilson who used to live at the bottom of the pitchings (Sandy Hill now) and Chapel Lane. He was a chimney sweep and used to sit at the door on a stool along with Will Doxey (Edgar and Hubert's dad) and several other men, it was a popular meeting place as was the Basin on the Green. Every tale, large and small, was discussed in the evenings during the week.
As I have written in another chapter Tantie Boden was the barber in part of the grocer's shop, men used to go for a shave and a haircut before Bic razors and electric shavers were thought of. This was another meeting place, the razors they used then were cut-throats and they were sharpened on a leather strop. The men worked long hours then so most only had a shave once a week on Friday or Saturday to look spick and span for Sunday.
The other meeting place of course was the pub (for those who went), in those days most of the men wore a waist coat and had a watch and chain dangling, lots were silver, some had medals too.
There was also a Mr Goodall who lived on the Green and cut hair for people and shaved them for a small amount, nowadays it costs two or three pound coins.
Another active person was Mrs Martin who lived next to the Zion chapel and helped anyone. When the buses started to run and turned round on the Green she once went and helped move the snow there because it had to be moved by shovel and brush in those days.
Les Flint too was a well-known character, he used to ring the church bell for services etc. He married my friend Evelyn and came from Wensley. He loved to watch bowls, cricket and football and was involved in all kinds of sporting activities in the village and attended all the club meetings, if Les wasn't there something was wrong. He was also a keen domino and darts player.
The Lilies Inn and the Hollybush in Via Gellia were popular with Middleton men years ago, they would walk down there, have a pint of beer and a chat then get watercress out of the brook on the way back. They also went down Bonsall Wood to the Pig of Lead. That could be a tricky walk back in the dark after a pint or two but they enjoyed it. In those days we had to walk everywhere or save up for a bicycle, which I notice are being used again. Nearly everyone has a car but to cycle is exercise for the legs. Most of the beer drunk years ago was draught, delivered to the pubs in wooden barrels. If anyone wanted to drink at home they would take a jug to the pub and have if filled from the pump, not in cans as today.
Amongst others Jepson's have always been undertakers in Middleton. I think Henry Jepson was Roger's great-grandfather and since his day the business has grown and now includes the long established Greatorex of Matlock and Mettams of Bakewell. Years ago Frank and Billy Buxton and Mr Webb were Funeral Directors. Billy used the old Jubilee Hall - the Primitive chapel before Zion replaced it - for whist drives during the war and raised a lot of money to help wartime organisations. He was also a very good violin player and used to play at funerals and concerts etc.
Another character I mustn't leave out was Joe Beastall (Beanie), I said I wouldn't use bye-names but Joe wouldn't mind. He used to walk with a scythe over his shoulder and cut down any long grass or hedge for a few bob. He would call at my neighbour Blanche's many a time for a slice of bread and jam or bread and dripping then go up to her garden and mow the long grass when she no longer could manage it herself
by Edith Taylor 1992
We got married first then lived together (how quaint can you be?). We thought 'fast food' was what you had in Lent, a 'Big Mac' was an oversized raincoat and 'crumpet' we had for tea. We existed before house husbands, computer dating, dual careers, and when a 'meaningful relationship' meant getting along with cousins, and 'sheltered accommodation' was where you waited for a bus.
We were before day care centres, group homes and disposable nappies. We never heard of FM radio, tape decks, electric typewriters, artificial hearts, word processors, yoghurt and young men wearing earrings. For us 'time-sharing' meant togetherness, a 'chip' was a piece of wood or fried potato, 'hardware' meant nuts and bolts and 'software' wasn't a word.
Before 1940 'Made in Japan' meant junk, the term 'making out' referred to how you did in your exams, 'stud' was something that fastened a collar to a shirt and 'going all the way' meant staying on a double-decker to the bus depot. Pizzas, McDonalds and instant coffee were unheard of In our day smoking was 'fashionable', 'grass' was mown, 'coke' was kept in the coal house, a 'joint' was a piece of meat you had on Sundays and 'pot' was something you cooked in. 'Rock music' was a grandmother's lullaby, Eldorado was an ice cream, a'gay person' was the life and soul of the party and nothing more, while 'aids' just meant beauty treatment or help for someone in trouble.
We who were born before 1940 must be a hardy bunch when you think of the ways in which the world has changed and the adjustments we have had to make. No wonder we are so confused and there is a generation gap today .... BUT
By the grace of God .... we have survived! Alleluia!
It's not been an easy lifetime but how grateful I am to have had a silver, ruby and golden wedding anniversary with George.
There have been many happy days also sad ones too. I have two grandsons and one great-granddaughter.
You will agree times have changed over 79 years, we were happy living in our own village but now life is fast and if you can't keep up with it they say you're old fashioned, which I am but have tried hard and I still wander up to the chapel. I will close with this poem.
OVER THE YEARS
AND NOTTINGHAMSHIRE 1928
The picture on the front cover.
The Basin on The Green before the Mount Zion Chapel
was built in 1906.
My thanks to all who have helped with this publication including:
G. Johnson - Typing
Rev. M. Smith - Photocopying
Greenaway Workshop - Printing Cover
Edith Taylor 1996
Sold in aid of Main Street Methodist Chapel, Middleton
Greenaway Workshop for Disabled, Greenaway Lane, Hackney, Matlock
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